This past Monday (September 9th) was International FASD Day. FASD stands for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. This date was chosen to help remind people of the importance of being alcohol-free during the nine months of pregnancy (09/09).
FASD – What is it and how can it be prevented?
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is a term used to represent a wide range, or spectrum, of disorders that is caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. In the past, the term used was Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). However, research into this medical condition uncovered that some children may not have all the physical features associated with fetal alcohol syndrome (thin upper lip, eyes that are further apart, larger forehead), but yet have the same cognitive or mental deficits of someone with FAS. As a result, researchers decided to create a broader umbrella term, hence the term Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.
Children born with FASD can display a wide range of abilities and disabilities. For example, some children with FASD can display strong communication or verbal skills, but at the same time, they might have a poor comprehension of what it is they are saying. Exposure to alcohol during the prenatal period can result in brain abnormalities, which can lead to behavioural problems, language and speech problems, and problems with thinking, judgement, and reasoning.
No Alcohol is Best When Pregnant
There is still a lot of misinformation about alcohol and pregnancy. For example, some physicians will tell a pregnant woman that drinking “a little bit” of alcohol is okay during pregnancy. Other doctors say that a woman can drink, but just not in the first trimester, when the brain and head is rapidly developing.
Here’s the most accurate information: No alcohol is best when pregnant. While a little bit of alcohol may not affect one woman in a dramatic way, we don’t know how it will affect the unborn child she is carrying. For this reason, no alcohol is best.
What can you do?
If you are a man and in a relationship with a woman who is pregnant…
- Support her by moderating your alcohol use.
- Consume non-alcoholic beverages when you are around her.
- Think about abstaining from alcohol until after her pregnancy.
If you are a woman who is sexually active and planning on being pregnant, then avoid drinking alcohol. If you are drinking on a regular basis, then make sure you are doing what you can to avoid being pregnant. If you have a pregnant friend, support her by taking her out for non-alcoholic beverages.
FASD is Preventable
Most figures say that a child with FASD can cost society at least 1 million dollars. This takes into account the added medical costs, the cost on the legal system (as many criminal offenders have symptoms of FASD), the social system (unemployment, social assistance services), and the extra assistance these children need while at school.
The cost of FASD to the child and his/her family, however, is immeasurable.
The reality is that the overwhelming majority of women do not drink or use drugs when they are pregnant. The thing is, many women will consume alcohol without knowing they are pregnant. For this reason, education on the dangers of alcohol during pregnancy is a useful preventative measure. Share this knowledge and support all women who have made the decision to have a healthy pregnancy.
Hoping this piece of knowledge helps in raising awareness…
LINKS RELATED TO THIS POST:
- Here’s a link to the Canadian FASD Research Network
- Click here to find out more about what the province of Alberta is doing to prevent FASD. At their upcoming conference in November, I’ll be presenting breakout session C3
- Here’s a brief article by the family physicians of Canada on the topic of FAS and how much it costs society
- Here’s a brief news story on FASD.